Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sixteen Candles (1984)

dir. John Hughes
Viewed on 2007-05-27
Rating: 8.0

Somehow, this slipped through the cracks. I don't know why I never saw Sixteen Candles when I was younger, as it is basically required viewing if you grew up in the 80s. It's not like I consciously avoided it, either. Just one of those flukey holes in my pop culture education, I guess. I suspect all pop culture junkies have them, whether they want to admit it or not.

For the record, I had seen parts of Sixteen Candles, but only when flipping through channels, and it always seemed to be more than half way through the movie. I can't stand coming into a movie late unless it's something I've seen before. It's like a sin.

Besides wondering why I'd never seen Sixteen Candles, I was also thinking that Molly Ringwald seems to be in the same category of actor as Mark Hamill--a young star of generational touchstone movies, but too-closely associated with the role (or type of role) to end up in a different type of movie that will match that success. It makes me wonder who else will join that class. Elijah Wood seems like a good candidate, but somehow I don't think of Lord of the Rings movies as having the same generational or pan-cultural significance as Star Wars or John Hughes's teen movies. (Don't get me wrong, the LOTR movies are among my favorites.) Could be that the LOTR movies are the Star Wars of a younger generation, though.

Anyway, getting back to Sixteen Candles: the movie is great, as I am no doubt the very first to discover. It's completely crazy and hilarious like a teen comedy should be. As much as I love The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller are more fun to watch, and that always counts more for me. That is, my favorite movies tend to have re-watchability, and there's a difference between "favorites" and those that I think are the best made. It's like the difference between everyday food that you love and rich food that you love but would get sick of if you ate it more than rarely. But I digress. What I was getting at is that Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller illustrate some of the problems and tensions of adolescence, but present them in absurd ways, while Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink* emphasize the drama. The thing about a lot of teenage drama--the real-life drama, I mean--is that it feels like the most vital thing in the world at that age, but at a distance it starts to seem more and more silly. (It's the inverse-square law of teen films: dramatic intensity drops off exponentially with distance.) I think that's partly why the comedies seem more relevant to me now. There's only so long you can remain serious about something. You either have to laugh it off or sink into a bitter hole.

So, maybe the serious teen movies should now be laughed at and can therefore be viewed in the same way as the comedies.

* I don't care for Pretty in Pink much at all. I suspect it might fall into the inverse-square theory I described above: if I'd seen it at a more relevant age, it would've been better. Yes, another admission, I only saw Pretty in Pink six months ago, but I think I did purposely avoid that one: "Meh, it's a chick flick."


Chrissa said...

Ah, Sixteen Candles. That and Bueller are my favorite John Hughes. I saw Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink again recently (both written but not directed by Hughes) and they didn't hold up well at all. There's something emotionally inauthentic about those two, imo.

I hear you on repeat-viewing movies not necessarily being the "greats." The ones I watch again and again (and again) aren't what I would condider the best movies out there. For me it's more about the mood they evoke, whatever that is.

On a completely different topic, we love MI5, as well. I wish Season 5 would hurry up and come to DVD.

Brian said...

Adding to your two, Planes, Trains and Automobiles would be another of my John Hughes favorites. I try to watch it every Thanksgiving.

FYI, BBC America is showing season 5 of MI5 this June, I think. Or July? Can't remember, but it's soon. Either way, I'm so glad I have cable back.

kerbot2000 said...

re: sinking into a bitter hole of adolescence - "ok, throw her in ze hole!"

i for one will always love The Breakfast Club. its drama remains endearing and its humor still rings true. it's also educational. for instance, did you know that smoking weed gives you the power to shatter glass with your voice?